How to Mop: A Step-By-Step Guide

Get rid of germs, dust bunnies, and dirt once and for all with this mopping guide.

Do you really know how to mop? You may think this is a silly question. But you’d be surprised to learn that a lot of people are doing it wrong.

Floors can be one of the dirtiest places in a family home. From crumbs in the kitchen to dirty shoes in the hallway, you’ve got to work hard to keep them clean.

Now, you don’t have to be a professional cleaner or have lots of hours in the day to do this. You’ve just got to have the right tools and the technique to get going. And that’s what we’re going to show you.

How Often Should I Mop?

There are no strict rules to follow when it comes to how often you should mop. But most families clean the floors around once a week. However, areas with lots of foot traffic may need more scrubbing sessions.

You may find that you vacuum more than you mop. This is better for picking up debris. Mopping, though, is best for scrubbing marks and stains, as well as sanitizing.

Disposable Vs Reusable Mop Pads?

If you’re cleaning heavily soiled flooring, you may choose to use disposable mop pads. Sometimes, they can be more convenient — particularly if you’re cleaning up an accident.

But, they can work out to be more expensive. If you’re watching your wallet and have a cleaning budget, you might want to opt for reusable mop pads.

A lot of people assume that reusable mop pads harbor more dirt and germs. But this is not true. In fact, they can be better for capturing grime, depending on the material.

For example, microfiber is good for capturing bacteria and it can remove more grease than cotton or paper (1). It can also dry faster than cotton, which may prevent mold and mildew growth.

They’re easy to throw in the washing machine to refresh and use again. Of course, this means they can also be more economical. You shouldn’t have to buy as many or as often.

How to Mop

We’re going to show you the most effective and efficient way to clean your floors with a mop and bucket. Our 11 steps below should have you covered.

1. Open a Window

First, open a window in the room you’re cleaning. This is going to help ventilate the space if you’re using a cleaning solution. It may also help to speed up the drying process while you’re scrubbing.

2. Tidy up and Move Furniture

We know you’ll probably want to start mopping already. But this step is going to save you a lot of time and effort.

Move any objects that are in your way or are going to slow you down while mopping. For example, lift up rugs, move the trash can, and put chairs on the table. All of these items are awkward to maneuver around or could get wet.

Of course, you don’t have to move large pieces of furniture. A lot of mops are designed with a flexible or flat head for sliding underneath sofas and around fridges.

3. Start With the Vacuum

Woman vacuuming carpet

Any deep clean should start with vacuuming. Mops are not designed to pick up excess dirt and debris – they’re more for sanitizing and buffing. You risk damaging your floors if you drag around dirt.

On the other hand, vacuums have powerful suction to capture dust, dirt, and crumbs. They gather in the dust bag and don’t reach your floor again. Sure, vacuuming takes a little extra time but it’s worth it for a better clean.

You may be tempted to use a broom for this step. But sweeping can put large amounts of dust into the air instead of trapping it like a vacuum. This might not be good if you’ve got allergies.

You might want to use a canister vacuum for this job. It doesn’t have a beater bar, which poses less of a risk of damaging hardwood floors. You may be able to use an upright vacuum but only if it has certain brushes for safe cleaning.

4. Fill Your Mop Bucket

Next is filling your mop bucket with water and a cleaning solution of your choice. You want enough water in there for the mop head to be submerged.

But you should also be able to transport your bucket around the home without any problems. You don’t have to use hot water for mopping. Studies find that cold water can wash and kill germs on your floor.

There was a comparison between washing hands in 60 degrees and 100 degrees Fahrenheit water. The cooler temperature was able to effectively eradicate the germs (2).

It’s important to achieve the right ratio of water and cleaning solution in your bucket. This may help to avoid streaks and stickiness. Most cleaning products will provide you with instructions to follow.

Take Note

You can make homemade cleaning solutions. You may be set in your ways when it comes to using a specialized solution, but you don’t have to be. This can allow you to save money and it may even disinfect the surface better.

Vinegar, with its acetic acid, can make a good sanitizer for your flooring. A study found that it has the natural ability to kill around 80 percent of germs (3). This includes bacteria that can cause Salmonella and sickness from E. coli.

Just be sure to use more water than vinegar. The acidity may damage the flooring if it’s highly concentrated. Don’t go above two parts water to one part of vinegar.

5. Dunk Your Mop

Now it’s time to start mopping: dunk your mop into the bucket. Totally submerge the mop head so that it can absorb the cleaning solution. Swish it around to make sure all fibers are covered.

But don’t forget to wring your mop before it touches your flooring. You only want to achieve a damp mop – too much water may damage your floors or leave it streaky.


Don’t use a damp mop on unsealed wooden floors. This may warp the wood and excess moisture can lead to mold growth.

You might want to invest in a microfiber mop for this task. These are better for removing small contaminants and dust from wooden floors.

If you do have a sealed wooden floor, you may be able to damp mop without causing any damage. To be on the safe side, check with the floor manufacturer beforehand. Also, be sure to give the mop a quality wring before mopping.

6. Start in the Furthest Corner of the Room

You probably don’t want to spend hours mopping. So, the best cleaning technique is to start scrubbing in the furthest corner of the room. This should be away from the doorway with your back to the exit.

The idea is to avoid walking over a clean, wet floor with dirty shoes. That’s just going to unnecessarily double your workload.

7. Mop in Straight Lines or Figure of Eight

To capture all of the dirt and grime from your floor, you may want to mop in straight lines. As a rough guide, follow the direction of the pattern or grain design. This is the best technique if you’re using a damp microfiber mop or steam mop.

If you’re choosing to use a cotton string mop, it’s best to mop in a figure of eight. Each pass should overlap for the most effective clean.

For any stubborn grime or marks, you may want to apply some downward pressure. This way you can scrub and loosen the dirt with the moisture. It’s often best to work in small sections – it may be easier to track where you’ve already cleaned.

8. Rinse and Wring Your Mop Regularly

During the mopping process, it’s best practice to rinse and wring your mop several times. The number of times you’ll have to do this will depend on how soiled the floor is.

Use the water and cleaning solution in your bucket to clean your dirty mop. It’ll have picked up dirt and germs you can’t see from your flooring. Rinse it off and then you can wring it out to prevent streaks and excess moisture.

If you find it a hassle to wring out your mop by hand, you may be interested in a spin mop. This has a device attached to the bucket that can automatically spin out excess water from your mop.

a red and white spin mop and bucket

9. Discard Dirty Water

Cleaning your floors with dirty water is counterproductive. It’s recommended that you discard the water in your bucket when it becomes murky and turns brown.

Germs and dirt will lie in the water and saturate your mop. The last thing you want to do is smear dirt back onto your clean floors, right?

10. Rinse Your Floor

If your floor has been incredibly dirty, you may want to consider rinsing it after scrubbing. In particular, this can be a good step if you’ve used a string mop.

Once you’ve poured out your cleaning solution, just fill up your bucket with clean water from the faucet. Just like you did before, quickly mop over your flooring. You won’t have to be as thorough as you were before.

11. Let Your Floor Dry

Finally, the mopping is all done. But still, allow your floors time to dry before you walk on them again. This may prevent outdoor shoes from spreading muck on it while it’s still wet.

If you followed our instructions at the beginning, ventilation and fresh air might help the floors to dry.

Enjoy Your Spotless Floors

Flooring is often the first thing you notice when you walk into a house. You want to make a good impression for your guests, right? Following our mopping guide may allow you to enjoy a spick and span home.

Some of the most important mopping steps include vacuuming before you begin. You also want the right ratio of water to cleaning solution in your bucket. Be sure to dunk and wring your mop often.

When your water gets dirty, it’s time to go. Rinsing your floor may be a step you want to complete when you’re enjoying a deep clean. Don’t forget to let your floors dry before the kids come home.

Do you have any techniques you use for mopping your floor? Share them with us in the comments!

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About the Author

Amy Anthony

Amy is a stay-at-home-mom, seasoned writer, and a home cleaning and organization aficionado. Amy enjoys having an absolutely spotless home and has worked hard to develop strategies to keep it that way, despite having 2 kids and 3 dogs!